The Common Good


Sojomail - September 8, 2000

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A  B r a n d  N e w  S o j o N e t ! 
     *Check out our new look - and much more

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k 
     *MLK Jr. on the walking dead

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
     *Looking in the right direction

P. O. V. 
     *Cardinal Mahony: End the death penalty
F u n n y   B u s i n e s s 
     *The atheist and the bear

C u l t u r e   W a t c h 
     *Brand masters target your kids

S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s 
     *The ABCs of friendship 

H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l 
     *Chuck Collins: Building a fair economy 

O n  t h e  R o a d 
     *We're coming to a town near you 

W e b   S c e n e 
     *Discover how your mutual fund invests 

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Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent 
about things that matter.

                    --Martin Luther King Jr.


H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
Look Down and Blame Up      

By Jim Wallis

Every so often you hear an idea or a phrase that 
gets to the heart of the matter and becomes an 
insight that explains a lot of things. That 
happened to me at the Shadow Conventions 
when listening to Dean Trulear speak on our 
"poverty day" programs at both the Philadelphia 
and Los Angeles conventions. Dean is the 
director of Faith-based Initiatives at 
Public/Private Ventures in Philadelphia, which 
brings both expertise and resources to urban churches 
on the front lines of the battle against violence and 

Trulear was talking about the role of the middle 
class in the fight to overcome poverty, and he said 
something that really jumped out at me. "Most of 
the time," said Trulear, "people tend to look up and 
blame down." That's a mistake, he said -- and it's also 
not biblical.

He went on to explain. Middle class people "look up," 
meaning that they aspire to move up the economic 
ladder and they like to identify themselves with those 
higher up than they are. At the same time, they also 
"blame down," meaning they are critical of those below 
them, often even scapegoating those who are poorer 
than they are as the source of many problems.

That's just the opposite of what people should be 
doing, said Trulear. "We should look down, and blame 
up." We should be identifying ourselves with those 
who have been shut out and left behind, while seeing 
the sources of many problems to be most often with 
those higher up the economic hierarchy." That, he 
said, is much truer to the reality of our social 
problems, and it is what the Bible suggests as the 
more appropriate attitude.

Biblical writers tend much more to identify with 
and be sympathetic to the poor and vulnerable, while 
putting most of the responsibility for poverty and 
injustice on the rich and powerful. Yes, in the Bible 
there is blame for poverty. It's not just an accident or 
nobody's fault. And, in the Bible, blame for poverty is 
seldom laid at the feet of the poor, as is so common in 
our society. Blaming the rich is not class warfare, as 
some would say -- it's just biblical faith.

Of course, many of us have been saying things along 
those lines for years, but Trulear's phrase just summed 
it up for me so well. When I asked Dean about the 
insight, he gave credit for the concept to John Raines, 
a professor at Temple University, who offered the idea 
at Roundtable on "Business and the local Church," 
sponsored by the New Jersey Council of Churches. 
Thanks John and Dean! Your simple phrase puts 
biblical economic ethics in a nutshell, as they say. 
And it's a good insight for reflection, both for 
individuals and congregations. Are we "looking up 
and blaming down," or are we beginning to learn how 
to "look down and blame up?"

Y o u ' r e  I n v i t e d...

To a Sojourners event next Thursday, September 14, 
at 7 p.m. Contributing editor Karl Gaspar will speak at
the Sojourners magazine office.

Karl Gaspar is a long-time liberation activist in the
Philippines (and an occasional contributor to 
Sojourners magazine). He's on a rare visit to the
States. This will be an informal evening with Karl, a
chance to hear from him and socialize with other
Sojourners in the area.

Join us if you're in the neighborhood. Sojourners
is located at 2401 15th Street NW in Washington,
D.C. -- Just across from Meridian Hill Park. (Free.)


P. O. V. 

Stop the death penalty! 
By Cardinal Roger Mahony, 
Archbishop of Los Angeles

I am a pastor who has witnessed the irreparable 
pain and sorrow caused by violence in our 
communities. I have presided at the funerals of 
police officers killed in the line of duty. I 
have sought to console and comfort families who 
have lost children to drive-by shootings. I have 
heard the concerns and fears of parents who live -- 
day in and day out -- surrounded by the violence 
that haunts their neighborhoods. 

As a priest, I have seen the pain of those whose 
lives have been forever altered by the loss of a 
loved one to senseless murder. Their own struggles 
have tested not only their faith but the faith of 
those who walk with them. As their own quest for 
healing has brought them closer to God, their 
witness has been a light of hope to those 
who accompany them. 

I believe that the reality of sin demands that 
those who injure others must make reparation. But 
I do not believe that society is made safer, 
that our communities are made whole, or that our 
social fabric is strengthened by killing those who 
kill others. Instead, the death penalty perpetuates 
an insidious cycle of violence that, in the end, 
diminishes all of us. 

For centuries, the Catholic Church accepted the 
right of the state to take a life in order to protect 
society. But over time and in the light of new 
realities, Catholic teaching now recognizes that 
there are nonviolent means to protect society and 
to hold offenders accountable. Church teaching now 
clearly argues for the abolition of capital 

For the full commentary on the death penalty 
as it appears in the Sept/Oct issue of Sojourners 
magazine, go to:


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s 

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods, 
admiring all that the "accident of evolution"
had created.

"What majestic trees! What powerful 
rivers! What beautiful animals!" he said to himself. 

As he was walking alongside the river he heard 
a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned 
to look.

He saw a 7-foot grizzly charge towards him. 
He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked 
over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing. 
He ran even faster, so scared that tears were coming 
down his eyes. He looked over his shoulder again, 
and the bear was even closer. His heart was pumping 
frantically and he tried to run even faster. He 
tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to 
pick himself up but saw the bear, right on top of 
him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising 
his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the atheist cried out "Oh my God!...."
Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. 
Even the river stopped moving. 

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came 
out of the sky, "You deny my existence for all of 
these years, teach others I don't exist, and even 
credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect 
me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to 
count you as a believer?"

The atheist looked directly into the light. "It 
would be hypocritical to ask to be a Christian 
after all these years, but perhaps could you 
make the bear a Christian?"

"Very well," said the voice. The light went out. 
The river ran again. And the sounds of the forest 
resumed. And then the bear dropped his right paw...
brought both paws together...bowed his head and spoke: 

"Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, 
I am truly thankful..."

*Sent by SojoMail reader David Monson from Albuquerque, 
New Mexico 

C u l t u r e   W a t c h 

Branded for Life 

21st century global marketers are 
more seductive than ever. And they 
want your kids. 
By Tom Sine 

In the last seven years, a borderless youth 
culture has emerged. The uniform is Levi's. The 
drink is Coke. And they are all hard-wired to the 
same pop media. Outside the United States this 
phenomena is seen not only as a product of 
globalization, but as a new form of American 
colonization. The world is beginning to look like 
an American strip mall, complete with KFC, Pizza 
Hut, and the Golden Arches. 

The editors of Vanity Fair wrote: "The power of 
America...has moved from its role as military- 
industrial complex to a new supremacy as the world¹s 
entertainment-information superpower." Not surprising, 
MTV is one of the most effective vehicles for 
galvanizing the young into this global youth culture. 
In Naomi Klein's provocative new book No Logo, she 
cites the New World Teen Study, which found that the 
single most significant factor contributing to the 
shared taste of the middle-class teens it surveyed 
was TV -- in particular MTV, which 85 percent of them 
watch every day. "The more viewers there are to absorb 
MTV's vision," she says, "the more homogeneous a market 
its advertisers have to sell their products." 

The world¹s youth are targeted for a very simple 
reason -- they are more amenable to the values of the 
global shopping mall than their parents' generation. 
While adults often still prefer culturally specific 
customs, young people, according to economist Joseph 
Quinlan, "prefer Coke to tea, Nike to sandals, Chicken 
McNuggets to rice, [and] credit cards to cash."

McWorld¹s marketers are not just interested in 
selling products to the global youth. They are intent 
on changing their values so they will all want to buy 
the same products. Whether we recognize it or not, 
people of faith are in a worldwide contest for the 
hearts and minds of the next generation.[]

To read the full story on global branding as it 
appeared in the Sept/Oct edition of Sojourners 
magazine, go to:


The Utne Reader recently listed Sojourners as 
one of the most-cited magazines in its history. 

Why does the Utne Reader love Sojourners? Sign 
up for a FREE ISSUE and find out for yourself. 

Go now to: 


S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s 

How well do you spell "friend?"

A friend.... 

(A)ccepts you as you are 
(B)elieves in "you"
(C)alls you just to say "Hi" 
(D)oesn't give up on you 
(E)nvisions the whole of you (even the unfinished parts) 
(F)orgives your mistakes 
(G)ives unconditionally 
(H)elps you 
(I)nvites you over 
(J)ust "be" with you 
(K)eeps you close at heart 
(L)oves you for who you are 
(M)akes a difference in your life 
(N)ever judges 
(O)ffers support 
(P)icks you up 
(Q)uiets your fears 
(R)aises your spirits 
(S)ays nice things about you 
(T)ells you the truth when you need to hear it 
(U)nderstands you 
(V)alues you 
(W)alks beside you 
(X)-plain things you don't understand 
(Y)ells when you won't listen and 
(Z)aps you back to reality 

*Sent in by SojoMail reader Gene Wilkins of 
El Granada, California 



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H e a r i n g  t h e  C a l l 
What you can do to build a fair economy 

Chuck Collins is co-director of United for a 
Fair Economy in Boston ( His 
new book is Economic Apartheid in America: A 
Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity, 
by Chuck Collins and Felice Yeskel (The New 
Press, August 2000). He was interviewed by Call 
to Renewal' Rebekah Menning. 

Call: How did United for a Fair Economy come about? 

Chuck Collins: In 1994, a group of us who had 
been working on poverty issues formed a study 
group to discuss "backlash" against poor people 
and immigrants. We came to understand that as 
economic insecurity in society rose, low-income 
people and immigrants became the targets, the 
scapegoats. We also were alarmed about rapidly 
growing inequality in income and assets (wealth). 
We wondered why the growing economic divide 
polarizing our society was not more of a publicly 
discussed issue. A year later, we formed United 
for a Fair Economy to raise the profile of the 
income and wealth gap and to promote solutions 
for a more fair economy. 

Call: What are some simple things that we can 
do to be socially responsible with our wealth, 
whether we make $20,000 a year or $200,000? 

Chuck Collins: We think it's important to remember 
two things. One is that the inequities in the 
economy are structural, the result of rule changes 
(for example, global trade and federal reserve and 
tax policy) that have benefited large-asset owners 
at the expense of wage earners. The second is that 
there is a role for everyone, including the wealthy, 
in speaking out about these rule changes and advocating 
for a fair economy. Philanthropy, on its own, will 
not address the root causes of these inequities. 
We can all make a difference with whatever clout 
we have -- as consumers, voters, givers, members of 
congregations with investments, and so on. The most 
important social change movements were started by 
low- and middle-income people, giving time, talents, 
or what little they could afford. The Congress on 
Racial Equality, a key early civil rights organization, 
raised its budget in the early 1950s from 12,000 
donors giving an average of $4.83 per person.[]

For more insights from Chuck Collins go to: 



Help SojoNet build a network. 


O n   t h e   R o a d 
Sojourners road trips 

September 22, 2000 
Cleveland Ohio 

Jim Wallis and the Call to Renewal 
celebrate "faith-working" 


W e b  S c e n e 
Cool siting of the week 

Calvert Group 

So you don't like how callously a company pumps 
out toxic sludge? Put your money where your 
mouth is. 
Calvert Group, which runs socially responsible 
mutual funds, lets you quickly determine if your 
mutual fund has a stake in the offending company. 
Just type in the name of the fund and the target of 
your wrath, hit the "Go"  button and see if they 

Calvert originally designed the tool to 
screen for tobacco stocks, but figured, why 
target just one industry? Go to: 


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